For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the startup world.
Running a business is no cakewalk. Nor is running a family. But managing both family and business with equal excellence, well, that is definitely a Herculean task. This edition of WE in Focus celebrates the sensational multi-taskers great at relationship building and adapting a.k.a mom entrepreneurs, who have a keen ability to balance being both the CEO of their respective households and their businesses with sheer determination, intelligence and creativity.
To paint a clear picture and provide context, I am in conversation with Esther Eisenhardt, a mother of two beautiful girls and founder of MomPreneurs a revolutionary movement that started in Berlin in 2013 to support and encourage women entrepreneurs with kids. Since its launch, MomPreneurs has made its strong presence in the D-A-CH region of Europe: 10 cities in Germany, Vienna, and Zurich. In 2014, Edition F named her as one of the 25 leading women for the digital future. And today she will share with us her startup journey, important insights from her initiative, and that women can have it all.
Esther, what was your motivation behind founding MomPreneurs?
I was in Berlin’s startup scene for 11 years. Then I just decided to do something on my own and realized that the startup scene has 95% men who want to launch the next big thing. And that somehow defined who a successful entrepreneur was – someone with venture capital, a huge team and probably working 60-70 hrs a week. But that’s not what I wanted. Even if I would have gone down this path, it would have been impossible for me as a mother with two kids. This made me feel unwelcome and realize that I am missing some like-minded people, women like me, who were asking how to balance their business and have a family at the same time. This made me start a meetup group for MomPreneurs in Berlin a year ago as a side project, and find my own network and somehow redefine success.
And how difficult was it to realize this idea?
The idea was a bit more selfish initially, because I just wanted to have a network for myself and want to connect with like minded women who faced the same challenges, had same questions and somehow the same setup and goals. These meetups helped me connect with them, support each other and give them a forum to somehow gain confidence and be empowered to start their own businesses. For me it was really cool to see more and more mothers attending these meetups. So with time I decided to make it more professional, and quit my previous startup idea to give my 100% to realize MomPreneurs.
For a side passion to become a full-time profession, how challenging was this transition?
In my previous startup idea, I had co-founders which in a way slowed the work flow. Having the right cofounder is just like marriage, and this was a big challenge for me. But with MomPreneurs I have created this business model where I am supported by two freelancers as well as my local MomPreneurs Meetup hosts. They believed in my vision and what I do, so they joined MomPreneurs to support the initiative. Another challenge for me is that being so passionate about my work that there have been times when I had to force myself to call it a day and focus on other things.
But all these tough times must have culminated into some more rewarding, right?
Very true, my reward comes from knowing that a lot of women have benefited from the MomPreneur’s growing network. We have over over 3000 members in the Facebook page , and over 1000 mothers in the Facebook group which is very active with women interacting with each other, exchanging ideas and helping each other. Its rewarding to hear when these mothers thank me for giving them such a platform. Being one of 25 Women for the Digital Future, and also nominated for Emotion Award is very fulfilling – feels good when people realize what I am doing.
To seek such similar fulfilment in their lives, what would you recommend to the moms out there who want to follow their passion and have a good family life as well?
You love your kids and you have a side passion – it’s possible for women to have both. It’s a lot of hard work – you need to invest your time, energy and little bit of money. You start with low risk and test your idea. If the market test fails, don’t continue it. This model works well if you are a part-time entrepreneur where you have a day job but want to fulfil your passion too. You can work at the weekends or evenings to see if there is a potential. And if the idea succeeds, you can work less in your day job and put more hours into your idea. I want to make these kind of models more popular among MomPreneurs, so that it is possible to start a side project and test the idea. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to start your business, just leave the comfort zone.
Speaking of MomPreneurs, why do you think they are so less compared to DadPreneurs?
For women the biggest challenge is they want to be good mothers and at the same time also want to do something they love in life, work-wise. They are afraid that sometimes this investment is just too high and their kids might suffer. In my generation or my mother ‘s or grandma’s, it was always different. If you want kids, it is important to support your husband, his career and just be with the kids at home. If you have a little hobby that’s okay, or if you work 20 hours a week and don’t have much work responsibility. But women nowadays, especially from your generation, wants both family and career. Now it is okay for a man and a woman to have a family, and share equal responsibilities. And I believe in that kind of family values. I am looking forward to the day when dads will have equal responsibility at home, in business or at the workplace. Perhaps we will have a DadPrenuer movement sometime soon, just not in my Facebook group. 😉
Sheryl Sandberg recently started the new #LeanInTogether initiative that calls out to men to promote equality at work and at home. What are your thoughts on men being educated in this topic?
Men needs to learn how to support their entrepreneurial partners. I tell my MomPreneurs that they need to really ask for help, and not take it for granted. Especially when the father takes the financial responsibility when the mother starts her business, initially, there won’t be much money coming in and people might undervalue her. But that shouldn’t stop her. Personally for me, I want to be financially independent but my goal is not to be super rich. I want to have a fulfilled life, like the German saying – “Meine leben genießen”. I want to do things with my family, to travel and not to just work the whole time. Financial responsibility should be shared between the couple, and men needs to understand this.
Well, you’d be happy to know that we have some aspiring mom entrepreneurs taking part in Startup Weekend Women Hamburg. Any advice for them?
If you have an idea, find a very easy way to test it. Know your ideal customer, and don’t market it to everyone. Find what they really need and what they willing to pay for. And then find how you can test the idea maybe by building a simple prototype during the Startup Weekend. Then share this prototype with your target customers either via online survey, a blog, or in your facebook page for feedbacks. Next, it is important to be a passionate learner. So make sure that you love to learn new things and try things out. Be brave enough to take the first step. Leave your comfort zone and make things happen!
Thank you Esther for such inspiring words, and taking care of the entrepreneurial mamas.
For those interested to know more about Esther and her work, you can check-out MomPreneurs’ homepage and Facebook fanpage. We at Startup Weekend Women Hamburg truly support mompreneurs and provide free childcare facility throughout the weekend for our participants with kids.
So mamas, you want to build your own startup? Give it a try, and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. DadPreneurs are welcome too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facebook Page.